05/22/05 — Health Department recognizes essay winners

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Health Department recognizes essay winners

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 22, 2005 2:01 AM

In its third year sponsoring an essay contest to promote abstinence among teens, the Health Department received 75 entries from public and private high schools around the county.

The top three winners were all Eastern Wayne High School ninth-graders, with five of the seven honorable mentions also from that school.

Carolyn King, health education supervisor with the Health Department, called the slate of entries judged this year "awesome." Students from grades 9-12 were to write about why abstinence is the best choice in the prevention of teen pregnancy.

"Abstinence is a message that the health education division goes out and teaches in the schools," she told the Board of Health on Wednesday. "It's obvious that a lot of kids have heard this message because they were able to articulate it."

Kristin Tri, a health educator, coordinated the event. She announced the winners during the board meeting and presented prizes before asking the top winners to read their essays to the board. Each received a certificate, a $5 McDonalds coupon book, and a T-shirt that bore the message, "I'm Worth Waiting For" on the back. Gift certificates to Berkeley Mall were also given, in the amount of $100 for first place, $50 for second place, and $25 for third place.

First-place winner Ashley Smith, 15, said she was prompted to enter the contest after hearing the subject of sex discussed so openly among her peers at school.

She said she thought, "Maybe if I wrote this essay and say something about how I feel, it can make some kind of difference."

Her winning entry will be posted on the Health Department's teen Web site, www.wayneteens.com and will be published in The News-Argus.

Noelle Kelly, 15, second-place winner, wrote in her essay that she has been hearing about abstinence all of her life and is now thankful for the message.

"In today's society, teenagers are constantly faced with opposing views, parents and teachers telling us abstinence is the best choice," she wrote, adding that movies, music and television make it seem like it's "no big deal."

"So who should you listen to? The answer is simple. Parents and teachers care for us."

Citing the Bible's message, she said that the only 100 percent sure way not to get pregnant is abstinence.

"The benefits are immeasurable," she wrote.

Kyle Ham, 14, third-place winner, also referred to the Bible's edict, saying, "I know God has a plan for me, and I need not be drawn to activities that would be harmful to me."

He wrote that teens are not mature enough to handle a child since they're only children themselves, not to mention the possibility of acquiring harmful disease.

Ham said the essay contest helped him put his thoughts and beliefs into words. All three agreed that it has been helpful to see other students willing to talk about abstinence, and being encouraged to do so by teachers at their school.

"It's taken down some of the barriers,"Ms. Kelly said, "that it's OK to talk about abstinence, too."

Mrs. King congratulated not only the students who entered the contest, but the parents who supported them.

Board member and county commissioner Efton Sager said he appreciated the health education department's efforts.

"There's no doubt about it," he said. "I think what the Health Department is doing working with the schools is making a difference.

"Thank goodness we have these children coming from good homes. If we could get all of them coming from good homes, we would be off to a good start."

Dr. Michael Gooden, also on the board, said, "If all the teenagers in Wayne County had the same type of support from home that these children have had, we'd have a lot fewer problems."

Honorable mentions also went to Ray Boyette, Angelica Graham, Brianna Williams, Casie Musgrave, and Madison Sauls, all from Eastern Wayne High School, Jamie Hayes of Pathway Christian Academy, and Marcia McCoy of Spring Creek High School.